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American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood Hardcover – May 8, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Though this memoir of growing up in America and Peru centers on Arana's parents' turbulent marriage, her real focus is the way cultures define, limit and enrich us. At one point, Arana, whose mother is American and father is Peruvian, recalls her first lesson in the color politics of Latin America. She was living in a gated house, in a factory town high in the Andes, and wanted to invite the daughter of the family cook to her birthday party. Of course she can come, said Arana's mother, but if she does, none of the mothers of the other little girls will allow them to attend; an Indian girl is not accepted at a party of aristocratic schoolchildren. "I am reminded of my political innocence," Arana writes, "when I go to Latino conferences in [the U.S.]. When I see the children of Spanish-blooded oligarchs line up alongside migrant workers for a piece of affirmative action." It is this willingness to slice through convenient classifications, to see the rifts in every group, that distinguishes Arana's account of how she learned to navigate between a culture that encouraged family loyalty and another that fostered independence. She writes beautifully, whether describing hunting for ghosts in Peru's highlands, chewing tobacco in Wyoming, attending an American school in Lima or finding friends in New Jersey. Arana, the editor of the Washington Post Book World, blends a journalist's dedication to research with a style that sings with humor. Her memoir is an outstanding contribution to the growing shelf of Latina literature. Agent, Amanda Urban.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Arana, editor of the Washington Post Book World, recently described this memoir as a love story. It is fraught with the tension of two worlds colliding: her North American mother's independent, free-spirited individualism crashes into her South American father's traditional, family-based orientation. Their children formed the bicultural bridge between them. In rich, lyrical prose, the author details her privileged, Peruvian childhood, watched by amas, and schooled at home. She writes of her grandfather who lived like a hermit in his own house, and further back the ancestors who played a horrifying role on Peru's rubber plantations. She describes the scent of sugar, "raw, rough, Cartavio brown" from her father's factory; the sounds of "El Gringo," the crazy blind man on his daily rounds; and the surreal world of los pishtacos, the ghosts, so mystifying, but terrifyingly real to Arana. She also writes of her mother and her former marriages, and finally of her life in America. Here Arana is an American Chica, where she leads not a double life, sometimes in her "American skin" at other times she is a Latina, but a triple life in which she makes up a "whole new person." While this book, filled with humor and insight, will be of special interest to Hispanic teens, it is a sparkling addition to the story of America's "salad bowl" and will appeal to young people of all heritages.
Jane S. Drabkin, Chinn Park Regional Library, Prince William, VA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Life centers around her mother and father--the dashing Peruvian engineer and her mother, the beautiful, mysterious American. But not everything is perfect in Marizi's world. Every now and then she is subject to the reverse racism of being half-foreign. Nevermind that she is a native of Peru. Yet, when she moves to New Jersey with her mother, she is subject to racism from those who see her as an intuder--(insert racist slurs here); a person who doesn't belong. Nevermind that she is as American as those who insult her for being different.
That sense of belonging sets the tone of this memoir. How well-adjusted is a child who is constantly told that she is different? She is half Peruvian, half North-American. She carries the richness of both cultures and speaks two languages. The conclusion Ms. Arana draws of being made to feel insincere because she is neither one thing nor another is a very powerful one, which only someone who is the offspring of parents of different nationalities can understand.
Ms. Arana tells her story with prose that draws you in. Sometimes, though, it is over the top and the pace of the novel seems to slow towards the end. Yet, she recounts the story of her childhood with the heart-felt affection of one sharing her most special memories
enjoyed the author's reminisces.....great read!!! Five Stars!!